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DID board discusses affiliation with Greater Fort Wayne

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 12:01 am

Downtown Improvement District board members want to work with Greater Fort Wayne Inc., but they're raising many questions en route.

When they met Tuesday, board members generally agreed that by sharing some costs with the larger organization, DID staff could be freed for more work with downtown businesses and property owners, perhaps with a reduction in overhead costs. DID might save money in areas such as health care and other benefits, support staff and information technology, members suggested. But they don't want to see the DID identity submerged within “Greater Fort Wayne.”

Greater Fort Wayne, announced only last month, is the merger of the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance.

Board Chairman Zach Benedict said that under state law, the DID must continue to seat a board to supervise spending the assessments from downtown property owners. He said he thinks that DID could be paid through a contract for services for Greater Fort Wayne. He also said that one impediment to sharing a location with Greater Fort Wayne is this: DID has benefited from its ground-level location at 111 W. Wayne St.

But Benedict pointed out the opportunities that affiliating with Greater Fort Wayne would entail. First, being invited to get involved with the group is a sign that the newly merged organization values downtown and the DID, he said. And working more closely with Greater Fort Wayne “guarantees us a seat at the table to be an advocate for our stakeholders,” he said.

Joining forces with Greater Fort Wayne is reversible, if it appears to be a mistake, he pointed out. “If we find ourselves not liking being married, we can get divorced,” Benedict said.

Benedict said a draft agreement between DID and Greater Fort Wayne is being worked on, but there isn't yet a final version ready to present to the DID board for discussion and action.